Technology will significantly increase in importance in the occupational health and safety space over the next 10 years, according to panellists at the Alberta Health & Safety Conference in Edmonton, Nov. 3.
The technology biggest trend for safety professionals is around data and analytics, said Shilo Neveu, an executive health, safety and environmental practitioner. They need to understand what data they are allowed to collect, and how it can be analyzed in a useful way. He stressed the risk of legal liabilities if this is not done properly, and reminded the safety professionals in the room to consult Alberta’s privacy act and know when they need to seek consent.
A worker’s most important tool is his smartphone, said Neveu. Employers should be training workers on how on use it to improve workplace safety. For example, employees can use it to take picture for hazard assessments, said David Cooper, a technology entrepreneur with experience in the health and safety industry.
“How do we use existing tools in a simpler way?” he said. “Simply taking a picture, emailing it to their supervisor... companies that have this sort of option and even just using what is built into cellphones, they saw an 80 per cent increase in people reporting incidences because they are using technology they are already used to using.”
The younger generation coming into the workforce is also forcing employers to use technology at work. By 2015, 20 per cent of the workforce will be between the ages of 20 and 30.
“So those people who were brought up with smartphones and tablets are now the ones coming into the workforce and they are really going to be expecting a lot more in terms of connectivity and devices,” said Cooper.
A lack of standards around designations and education is something that is plaguing the occupational health and safety industry right now, said Neveu.
“The people entering our industry are confused, the people within the industry are confused.”
There are an unnecessary amount of designations, diplomas, certificates etc., said Neveu, likening it to badges on a boy scout sash.
“If some of us in this room have any more credentials behind our name, we need two business cards just to get our name inside there,” said Neveu. “I do see this as a problem because you start losing what they are actually supposed to be doing at the end of the day.”
Standardizing credentials and education needs to come from the top down — industry associations and employers need to drive the change, he said.
The United States is pushing the Certified Safety Professional designation as being at the management level and other designations being more at the field level, and this model may be adopted in Canada as well with the Canadian Registered Safety Professional (CRSP) designation.
“The CRSP right now seems to be taking the lead. It’s the one that most employers are picking up and resonating with,” said Neveu. “I’m not saying the CRSP is the end all be all. I’m just saying what’s being adopted right now, that’s the trend.”
From an individual perspective, safety professionals can help create standardization by being involved in the hiring process. When a job posting is going up, the safety manager needs to be involved in crafting that description, said Neveu.
“Understand what you need, you as an individual and you as a company. If you’re not helping with that job posting, you’re already losing at the front end.”